Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan: EU ‘open but unconvinced’

The European Union is "open but not convinced" by the UK PM's new proposals for a Brexit deal with the EU, the president of the European Council says.

Donald Tusk was among several leading EU voices to express doubt over Boris Johnson's withdrawal agreement plan.

The plan would keep Northern Ireland in the EU single market for goods but see it leave the customs union.

But what happens to the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland remains a central sticking point.

Irish PM Leo Varadkar said the new plans for the withdrawal agreement were welcome, but "fall short in a number of aspects".

Boris Johnson said on Thursday he had made a "genuine attempt to bridge the chasm" with EU officials before time runs out to reach a deal in time for the 31 October deadline for the UK to leave the EU.

Despite the prime minister's vow to quit the bloc then, a law passed by UK MPs in parliament will likely force him to delay Brexit unless he manages to strike a deal before then.

The UK government says it is aiming to reach a final agreement at an EU summit on 17 October.

What are the proposals?

Downing Street hopes the plan will replace a controversial Irish "backstop" provision – aimed at preventing the return of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland – that has proved the biggest obstacle to the existing withdrawal agreement.

The backstop was meant to keep a free-flowing border on the island of Ireland but critics – including PM Boris Johnson – fear it could trap the UK in EU trading rules indefinitely.

Mr Johnson's latest plan seeks to address this with the following:

  • Northern Ireland to remain aligned with EU's single market rules for trade in animal, food and manufactured goods
  • Northern Ireland's legislative assembly to have the right to decide every four years if it wants to continue to apply EU legislation to traded goods
  • Northern Ireland to leave EU's customs union alongside rest of UK in 2021
  • Customs checks on goods traded between UK and EU to be "decentralised", with electronic paperwork and "small number" of physical checks away from border itself

Read more: How does the border plan differ from the backstop?

The new UK proposals envisage two borders – one between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and a second between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, says the BBC's Europe editor Katya Adler.

What do EU officials say about the proposals?

EU negotiators say they have already identified problems with the plans, including the continuing failure to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland and the threat to the single market.

Donald Tusk reacted in a tweet, after speaking to Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar, who is seen as key to agreeing to a withdrawal deal.

For his part, Mr Varadkar voiced concerns over the customs proposals, questioning how Northern Ireland and Ireland could opeRead More – Source